New Delhi: The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the second biggest constituent of the ruling government, severed ties with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on Tuesday, but the move posed no immediate threat to the minority government, which said it is "stable and will continue to stay in power". The M Karunanidhi-led DMK, which, for days had been threatening to pull out from the UPA in protest against government not taking up its concerns in the proposed UN resolution against Sri Lanka, said its five ministers in the Union Ministry would also tender resignations by Wednesday.
A delegation of DMK leaders, led by TR Baalu, handed over the letter of withdrawal of support from the UPA to President Pranab Mukherjee at 10.30 pm on Tuesday. The UPA is in minority in Parliament now.
The withdrawal heightens the chance that the government will call a snap national election if it is unable to pass major legislation, although neither the ruling Congress party nor the main opposition have shown much appetite for early polls. Elections need to be held by May 2014.
But hinting at a possible return in the alliance in the future, the 88-year-old former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said DMK was ready to reconsider its decision if Parliament adopts a resolution before March 21, taking DMK's concerns on board. Karunanidhi, as well as his political rival, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, have been demanding amendments to the UN resolution against Sri Lanka.
The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has not yet spelled out its position on resolution, called the government a "lame duck' and NPA (Non-Progressive Alliance) afte DMK's pull out. BJP leaders, however, maintained that they have not been sounded out by the senior ministers about any resolution as demanded by the DMK as a condition for supporting the government.
Two parties, the DMK and the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK, have been demanding that India vote in favour of the resolution. They have also demanded introduction of the words 'Eelam' and 'genocide' in the US-sponsored resolution and have asked for an international probe into crime committed by the Sri Lankan Army against Lankan Tamils during the almost three decade long conflict with LTTE cadres.
However, government sources later said the DMK never insisted on the term 'genocide' during its meet with the Congress leaders, which was held in New Delhi on Monday to broker a way out of the logjam. "They sought a resolution in Indian Parliament and demanded amendments to the UN resolution on Lanka," they added.
However, Jayalalithaa dismissed Karunanidhi's move as just a "drama" and indicated it was an action which came too late in the day. His announcement that the party was withdrawing its support to the Centre over the Lankan Tamils issue was a late decision, she said while also referring to a Tamil saying.
The DMK, which draws its support from Tamils, announced its withdrawal from the coalition in protest against the government's perceived dithering on a UN resolution on war crimes in neighbouring Sri Lanka between that country's Sinhalese-majority government and its own minority Tamils.
Of the five DMK ministers that will resign on Wednesday, MK Alagiri is of Cabinet rank. The DMK has 18 Lok Sabha MPs and six Rajya Sabha MPs. Karunanidhi also ruled out outside support to the UPA.
After chairing an emergency meeting of TESO, a pro-Tamil organisation revived by him in 2012, a combative Karunanidhi charged the Manmohan Singh government with not only allowing 'watering down' of the US resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC but also not even considering any of DMK's suggested amendments to that resolution.
"Since it would be a big harm to Tamil race if DMK continues in Central Government when a situation has been created which won't benefit Eelam Tamils, DMK has decided to immediately pull out of the Union Ministry and the UPA," Karunanidhi said reading out from a statement in Chennai.
Party positions in the Lok Sabha, which has 539 MPs at present as four seats are vacant, are as follows. The half-way mark is 270. UPA has 250 seats with the DMK included.
Outside support for UPA totals 49, including:
UPA + outside support equals 299
With the DMK deciding to withdraw, the strength of the UPA drops by 18 to 232. UPA + outside support in this case equals 281.
NDA - 152
Left + Others 88
But the coalition, already a minority in Parliament, will be more than ever at the mercy of powerful but fickle regional parties for support, especially the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP).
(With Additional Inputs From Reuters and PTI)